Sunday, January 24, 2016

HOW TO DO A TRANSFORMERS COMIC RIGHT

So we're done with Dreamwave's TRANSFORMERS: GENERATION ONE comics. I still maintain that James McDonough and Adam Patyk have come the closest to a perfect translation of the Transformers to the printed media, but they still had some misses in the process. To varying extents, Sunbow Animation, Marvel Comics, and IDW Comics have pulled it off as well, but the perfect TRANSFORMERS series would be a mix of elements from all these various continuities.

Several years ago, around the time IDW's comics started to lose me, I wrote the below, detailing just what I think the ideal TRANSFORMERS: GENERATION ONE comic book franchise would be. I had no blog back then, of course; this was something for my own entertainment, to get it out of my head.

But now, since I just wrapped up my reviews of the closest-to-ideal G1 comic book continuity I've seen, I figure I'll present the following, with minor edits since I first wrote it in 2011, for your pleasure:


THE TRANSFORMERS
A Comic Book Treatment

A good TRANSFORMERS comic book should focus on the Generation One cast, drawing heavy influences from the original cartoons and comics. It should be a “re-imagining” of the existing storylines, NOT something “fresh and new” or a “bold new direction”. The characterizations should be strongly based on the G1 cartoon versions of the characters when possible, as these are the most recognizable. Ideally a reader should "hear" the G1 voice cast in his or her head when reading the dialogue. However, where appropriate, comic book characterization may come into play as well.

The character designs should always use the original Sunbow model sheets as their starting points, whenever possible. Some deviations may be made, but the Sunbow “feel” should remain prevalent. This applies to human characters and various environments as well; for example Autobot bases and structures should be colored orange/gold, and Decepticon bases and structures should be purple. Coloring should be done in a "cel-shaded" fashion to mimic an animated cartoon.

In a perfect world, there would be three TRANSFORMERS series, each ongoing, launching in staggered releases. Each book would feature a specific cast of characters in a unique location. The basic ideas for each title are as follow:

THE TRANSFORMERS: The flagship series would hew closely to the original G1 continuity, even going so far as to occasionally simply re-tell cartoon and comic book stories in an updated format (i.e., take all the good plot elements from the cartoon and comics and hammer them into an ongoing serialized story, swapping out characters where necessary due to conflicts with the new continuity, while dumping the sillier or more outrageous elements of the eighties material). This title would sell the “robots in disguise” aspect of the Transformers, using the Marvel Comics/early IDW status quo of the Autobots and Decepticons fighting a relatively secret war on Earth.

The cast would consist of all 1984 Autobots and Decepticons, plus the Constructicons, Dinobots, Insecticons, Reflector, and Skyfire, either from the outset or joining later in some cases. It is possible that Dirge, Ramjet, and Thrust would show up in this series, but they could still be on Cybertron when it begins. The Aerialbots would also be constructed on Earth at a much later point in the series. The core Autobot cast would consist of Optimus Prime, Ironhide, Ratchet, Wheeljack, Jazz, and Bumblebee, augmented by the remaining characters as needed. On the Decepticon side, the core cast would be Megatron, Starscream, and Soundwave, likewise joined by secondary characters issue to issue.

Human participants in the storyline would be drawn from various media, and include, among others: Spike and Sparkplug Witwicky, Carly (possibly with the last name of Spencer as established in TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON), Chip Chase, and Dr. Arkeville, all from the animated series; and G.B. Blackrock, Josie Beller/Circuit Breaker*, Walter Barnett, Donny Finkleberg and possibly Buster Witwicky, from Marvel Comics. Some of these characters would be re-imagined slightly to better fit the ongoing storyline.

TRANSFORMERS: CYBERTRON: The second series, which would launch several months to a year into the run of THE TRANSFORMERS, would run on a parallel timeline to the Earth-based book, so that the two titles could eventually cross over, and would chronicle the war between the Autobots and Decepticons which still rages on their home planet. When the title starts, the Decepticons rule the planet, and the Autobots fight back as a guerilla resistance force.

The cast of this title would include all 1985 Autobots and Decepticons, along with certain characters from later years, especially 1986. Ultra Magnus, Springer, Perceptor, and Blaster form the core of the Autobot resistance, with the remaining 1985 Autobots backing them up. Characters such as Marvel's Emirate Xaaron and Sunbow's Alpha Trion would pop up too, as well Vector Sigma. The main Decepticons here would be Shockwave (drawing heavily on his Marvel Comics characterization) as the leader of the Decepticons, and his right-hand warriors Astrotrain and Blitzwing, as well as the Combaticons as his shock troops, and other '85 and '86 Decepticons as needed.

TRANSFORMERS: HEADMASTERS: The third and possibly most controversial series would follow a group of Autobots who fled Cybertron to escape from the war (as opposed to Optimus Prime’s group, which was on a mission to support the war effort), and the Decepticons who followed them. This series would be heavily influenced by the 1987 HEADMASTERS mini-series from Marvel in terms of characters and settings. But where THE TRANSFORMERS would focus mostly on the Autobots and Decepticons with their human acquaintances sharing a good amount of page-time, and where CYBERTRON would focus entirely on the Transformers with no humans to be found, the controversial aspect of HEADMASTERS is that it would feature the Nebulans prominently, sharing page-time at least equally with the Transformers.

The Transformers would arrive on the planet Nebulos, where their continued hostilities take the form of a “cold war” as both factions ally with members of the Nebulan government. The premise here is to focus on political maneuvering and soap operatic backstabbing rather than overt warfare (TRANSFORMERS meets GAME OF THRONES, but without the incest). But unlike the Earth-based THE TRANSFORMERS, in HEADMASTERS, the existence of the Autobots and Decepticons is known to the general populace of Nebulos.

The cast of HEADMASTERS is all of the 1987 and 1988 Autobots and Decepticons. Beyond that, any character who was identified as a Headmaster, Targetmaster, Powermaster, or Pretender is fair game to appear in this series. The core cast on the Autobots’ side would be Cerebros, Chromedome, Hot Rod, Kup, and Blurr. Fortress Maximus would eventually show up, but for many issues he would simply be the Autobots’ starship, as in the Japanese HEADMASTERS cartoon series. The main Decepticons are Thunderwing, Scorponok, Weirdwolf, Mindwipe, and Skullcruncher. The key Nebulan players include Galen, Stylor, Lord Zarak, Vorath, and Zarak’s daughter, Llyra. A major plot point is a love quadrangle between Galen, Stylor, and Llyra, while Zarak tries to marry Llyra off to Vorath.

Presumably, all three series would cross paths and cross-pollinate their characters, but in a perfect world, this would not happen until at least 50 issues of THE TRANSFORMERS had passed. A rough timeline would look something like this:
  1. THE TRANSFORMERS launches. In issue #12, the Decepticons establish communications with Cybertron.
  2. Concurrently with issue #12 of THE TRANSFORMERS, TRANSFORMERS: CYBERTRON launches, chronicling Shockwave’s attempts to aid Megatron on Earth, while the Autobots try to stop him. Several times during the first dozen issues of this series, references are made to Cerebros’ desertion of the Autobot cause.
  3. Concurrently with issue #24 of THE TRANSFORMERS and issue #12 of TRANSFORMERS: CYBERTRON, TRANSFORMERS: HEADMASTERS launches. All three series run, relatively independently of one another, for approximately two more years (though THE TRANSFORMERS and CYBERTRON have some interaction via subspace communications).
  4. Issue #50 of THE TRANSFORMERS, issue #38 of CYBERTRON, and issue #26 of HEADMASTERS form a crossover event in which all the various Transformers factions are thrown together and status quos are reevaluated and changed. Some characters may jump around (Hot Rod, Kup and Blurr to Cybetron, 1985 Transformers to Earth, etc.), but the established premises of each series will stay more or less the same.
As I said when I talked about STARTING MARVEL OVER last year, to some this may sound like living in the past, especially when I talk about retelling old stories with a new coat of paint on them. And yes, that's exactly what it is. Why would you want someone to tackle a property you loved when you were younger if you know they're going to "reinvent" it? That defeats the purpose of a revival. There was nothing wrong with TRANSFORMERS the first time around; it just needs to be spruced up and retold (not "reinvented") for a modern audience.

Some may say that they aren't fans of G1 or that they like the more recent takes on TRANSFORMERS better. To them I say: I respect your opinion. I've liked a sparse few of those more recent interpretations as well. But, in concept and characterization if not execution, for me nothing will ever be better than GENERATION ONE, whether in cartoon, comic book, or any other format.


* Yes, Marvel owns the rights to the Circuit Breaker character, not Hasbro. But this my fantasy, darn it! It's not like any of this is actually going to happen.

No comments:

Post a Comment